British boxers clinch medals
LONDON -- Although the British boxers must wait a few days to add their medals to the home team's enormous Olympic haul, they're lining up for big weekend bouts and even bigger celebrations.
Middleweight Anthony Ogogo and super heavyweight Anthony Joshua both clinched medals in quarterfinal bouts Monday night, guaranteeing Britain will win at least four Olympic medals in front of its frenzied home fans.
Ogogo jumped ahead early in a 15-10 victory over Germany's Stefan Haertel, and Joshua knocked down China's Zhang Zhilei during a 15-11 win in the session's final bout. Although two of the three British women lost their quarterfinals earlier in the day, flyweight Nicola Adams also earned a medal - and three more British men could clinch in the next two days.
Ogogo isn't surprised by the British dominance in the amateur sport, which has its roots in Amir Khan's silver medal as the only fighter in Athens eight years ago. After the British brought home three medals from Beijing, they'll have even more in London.
"We've got the best coaches in the world," Ogogo said. "We've got the best team in the world, in my eyes."
When the fans weren't singing and making up cheers for their new pugilistic stars, they watched lightweight Vasyl Lomachenko of Ukraine clinch his second Olympic boxing medal with a 14-9 victory over Puerto Rico's Felix Verdejo on Monday night. Later, middleweight Vijender Singh was eliminated in the biggest blow yet to the beleaguered Indian team.
Evaldas Petrauskas also secured Lithuania's first-ever Olympic boxing medal, beating Italy's Domenico Valentino in a 16-14 upset. Valentino's teammate, defending gold medalist Roberto Cammarelle, barely survived his quarterfinal super heavyweight bout, edging Morocco's Mohammed Arjaoui 12-11.
The dynamic Lomachenko was tested in his quarterfinal bout with Verdejo, who constantly moved forward to challenge the two-time world champion. Verdejo's aggression forced Lomachenko to show off his defense, reflexes and stunning footwork, and it all added up to another comfortable win for the Beijing Olympics' best boxer.
Verdejo still scored more points than Lomachenko allowed in any of his five dominant victories in Beijing, although the amateur scoring system has since been altered in ways that encourage higher scores.
"I fought a good fight against a top-notch fighter," Verdejo said. "I hope this experience will help me grow as a fighter."
Lomachenko earned a tough semifinal bout against Cuba's dynamic Yasnier Toledo, who beat Kazakhstan's Gani Zhailauov 19-11.
Petrauskas' win was a stunner. Valentino is a veteran amateur who recently signed with AIBA's professional boxing program.
The undersized Petrauskas, who idolizes Mike Tyson, fights a crowd-pleasing style that got an ovation when his victory was announced.
Japan also clinched its second medal in London after winning just three boxing medals in its previous history when second-seeded middleweight Ryoto Murata beat Turkey's Adem Kilicci 17-13.
But the Indian team had another night to forget.
Singh's 17-13 loss to Uzbekistan's Abbos Atoev cast a pall over ExCel arena, where hundreds of Indian fans had hoped the Beijing medalist could rescue their sinking team.
Singh became a national icon four years ago by winning bronze, India's first medal in Olympic boxing. India's amateur boxing culture expanded rapidly after Beijing, and seven men qualified for London along with flyweight Mary Kom, who secured a medal with a quarterfinal victory earlier Monday.
But the Indian men have been hit by constant misfortune in this tournament, from a handful of close decisions to AIBA's reversal of welterweight Krishan Vikas' win over Errol Spence of the U.S. for an accumulation of uncalled holding fouls. Only light flyweight Devendro Laishram is still alive on the men's side.
Singh didn't dominate Atoev, but couldn't get the decision against a fighter he shut out at the Asian Games two years ago. Singh rushed to the locker room, but assistant coach Blas Iglesias shouted: "It's a mafia! It's a mafia!"
Ogogo got off to a strong start against Haertel, who injured his hand in the first round and couldn't fight with his usual aggression. Ogogo held on to the decision despite Haertel's strong third round.
"It's nice to have an insurance policy," Ogogo said of his guaranteed bronze. "But I have dreamed about becoming an Olympic champion since I was 12 years old, so that's what I'm going for."
The crowd was more than ready when Joshua finally walked to the ring well after 11 p.m. in London, and the hulking super heavyweight delivered one of the games' most crowd-pleasing fights.
He recorded a clean knockdown in the second round, a rarity in elite amateur boxing, connecting with a right to the jaw that sent Zhang sprawling to the canvas. With the home crowd chanting "Who are ya?" at the theoretically groggy Zhang, Joshua finished up his second win and set up a semifinal bout with Kazakhstan's imposing Ivan Dychko.
"That's what a medal represents, is the journey," Joshua said. "It won't stop here. I'm just going to get tougher."
Top-seeded super heavyweight Magomed Medzhidov of Azerbaijan grinded out a 17-14 win over Russia's Magomed Omarov to earn a date with Cammarelle on Friday.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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